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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  September 6, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley, tonight, chuck d, leader and cofounder of public enemy, emerge in the last 30 years. their track "fight the power" became an anthem for a new generation just finding its voice. as a solo artist, he's released a new digital album called "the black in man," which takes on hip-hop by advocating on broader materialism that strips young people of their pride. we're glad you've joined us for the conversation with chuck d coming up right now. ♪
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ >> as a founder member of the renowned hip-hop group public enemy, chuck d as always used his musical artistry as a way to investigate what needs to change in this country. his latest solo released, "the black in man," continues in that vein, for selling young people a steady diet of materialism
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instead of promoting pride. let's take a look at a clip from the new digital album. the song is called "give we the pride" and features one mavis staples. ♪ ♪ tired of social media after me ♪ ♪ chuck d what do you think about this policy ♪ ♪ make us equal instead of being creatures we're human features ♪ ♪ plan to fail, 2014 too many folks in jail ♪ ♪ 11-year-old can't relate to champagne, silent n-words ♪ ♪ blinded by the fame ♪ shake what yo mamma gave you ♪ shaking that thing doing them things ♪ >> you know, most folks don't last in this game as long as you have. to what do you attribute a 30-year career? >> paying attention to ms.
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mavis. 30-year career, but she has a 50, 60-year career, and i'm enlightened and enamored with i have an opportunity to be able to stay in currency with people like that. >> yeah. >> and that's the inspiration to keep me going on, just look into our history, look into our catalog of giving, and that is one of the greatest feelings in my life. and we started that project, talking about it, like more than ten years ago and it finally came together and was a bunch of people that divided souls, these guys were producing, it just happened in a wonderful way and spirit. >> but you really admit and acknowledge hip-hop has a way, hip-hop music as a way of discarding artists relatively quickly. >> especially in the united states, but i look at the map behind you and that's one of the things that public enemy was able to do. the minute we got our passports,
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which is a privilege and also it's derogatory because it makes an alien to visit the planet earth without permission, we ventured out to the world with the word, and that was the thing that was the saving grace for public enemy. >> one has to be impressed when one realizes you all have toured in 83 countries. >> 96 countries. >> i'm off now, i'm a little behind. 96 countries? >> happens when you keep going on. >> i'm off on my count. that's a lot of countries, though, chuck. >> it's over 200 in the world. we're halfway there. used to always make me envious when he'd tell me the amount of countries he visited. we'd have these conversations and i said, brother, how many countries have you been to? oh, i'm at 161. i'm like -- that's always gave me the impetus to, like, strive forward. also we're going because of the music is around the world. music is the universal language.
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i tell people, yes, i'm determined to be black in america, i'm negro on my birth certificate, but in truth i'm a human being who's an earth sin, i'm a citizen of the planet earth and i'm a culturist. culture knocks government lower to the side. that's been first and foremost what we've been trying to push out there as being, yeah, we are equal, too. we're equal people, too. we're fighting the music to prove that. >> i want to talk about fighting the music in a second. what's the most significant or one of the most significant take aways from your being able to see firsthand how your music plays, is embraced in so many countries around the globe, what's the take away for you from that? >> human beings versus maybe unfair government, unfair rule, abusive authority, which we've witnessed here, abuse of
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authority as with the mike brown murder and just how the police state has taken over a sense of government of the people. and we've seen that the words that are spoken through songs sometimes can give a universal lore to people by challenging the things that are unjust and unfair. we didn't make it up. but it's also something that we have to learn that before us there's the curtis mayfair, there's a pete seager. people who we've lost in human life, but their spirit still lives. it was something that you have to pay attention to it. if you're going to be about it, you should learn where it comes from. and we've been fortunate and blessed to be able to take that page and be able to make it imperpetuity. >> since you went there with the murder of mike brown in ferguson, missouri, what's your sense of the relevance of the
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lyrical content in "fight the power" all these years later? >> when power's abusing people from really being at the top of their human being, then you have to challenge that. and words, you know, people tell you that talk is cheap. words are not cheap because they motivate action or even motivate defense, so when it came down to that, it's the same old -- not just the same old story, but almost reverting back to the old story of plantation, owners, slaves, don't go nowhere. when you have a police force and a neighborhood that don't live there, people don't treat their children as if they would their own, then you got this alien animosity type of thing festering, you know, partially it is our community that has to address our youth in telling them because of your characteristics in this country, you're endangered species, you are almost like part of a hunting game, so we have to
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supply them with the tools of self. and when we don't do that as a collective and we're individualized, we've got this thing going from we and to me, it's an issue that really sometimes sets our youth up to just be father for a system whether or not they are suffering being killed in the streets from their own confusion, being killed by authority because of the confusion of that relationship or unrelationship, or just being thrown in these cages where they almost have 3 million folks in jail looking to have another 2 million leading to a prison industrial complex that's turned into the spark for such a big business to bring the usa back on up financially. >> yeah. this will sound strange, but i want to quote bill o'reilly for just a second here. >> okay, here we go. fellow long islander, right?
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>> only because when he made this comment some days ago it got picked up in a variety of places. i was not in l.a., but i saw this when it hit the internet, and what he basically said was in response to what you just laid out, you would define as truth, bill o'reilly says, it's grievance, grievance, grievance, that's all you hear, grievance, grievance, grievance. he's not the one that feels that way, there are a lot of folk who feel even after mike brown it's always us with a grievance. how do you respond to folk who think it's just grievance, grievance, grievance every time they hear you or me show up somewhere? >> so? >> yeah. >> so? and? yeah. >> yeah, it's grievance. grievance is the best way of putting it to the fear of action when people actually really realize what it is and they get together and they start to, you know, say all right, this is what it's going to come down to. so grievance is a good thing and it gives you time to take care
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of it. i mean, here in 2014, going into 2015, tavis, you have been the guiding light to many people to clear a lot of disinformation. we have very few of these sparks that are in this mass media of confusion, so we don't pay attention to the sparks that we have to be able to energize and create our own bonfire of energies, then, yeah, people will continue to talk for us. people will continue to talk at us, down to us, and that's why the music really kind of truncates it into a social media world. music gives you a headline, gives you a story, able to knock that word down and able to nod your head to it in agreement or even disagreement. so the music can kind of truncate in these times, you know, a point of view and get across, then it's got to cut
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through big business, which is a big problem for me today. i don't blame the rappers, i blame their core plantations that make them sign, and 99% of them take up and soak up all of radio, soak up all of television, and at the end of the day people want to blame teenagers and youth or people in their 20s for being confused. it's the media been totally been misappropriated by people who are spooked by the door. >> i promise i'll give you all the time left in this conversation to blast corporate america in one second. >> i won't. too many things to talk about. >> i may join you in that, but before i jump to that, you said something i want to come back to before we move on, because i agree with you, music is pregnant with power, it is pregnant with power to do a lot in the world. i wonder, though, if it has the power, though, to do what i think needs to be done that hasn't yet been done in our society, and that is to find a way for fellow citizens, particularly those of color, to
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not have their humanity contested every day. this michael brown thing in missouri, for me, is not so much about black and white and wrong and right as it is about the con testation of the dignity and humanity of these brothers and sisters across the country. does music have the power to spark that conversation? and if not music, how do we get to the dignity and humanity of everyday people? >> i think it's really quick. i think when it comes down to music, if it's one sided and it's a dictation as of being a reflection, usually the dictation turns into a reflection, which is unfair. and then people kind of look too much into music or too much into a speech to actually do the real work of paying attention to people that do the real work. you know, there's people every day that do the real work or are
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trying to bring people up, but if they are obscured and at the same time people are just getting -- they are not talking two or three years, there's a 15 and 16, 20-year period of the same old thing. i mean, how long is youth, youth? they are not youth for long, you know? if they are going into the 20s and 30s and consider themselves youth, you know, that's the individual brain washing thing that's taking place. that's another discussion, but how long is youth, youth? you know, when somebody says, well, i'm 27, i'm 34, i'm still young. who told you that? my question a lot of times, who told you that? and usually can't find somebody that told them, well, i'm saying. you're saying what? who told you that you're young? yes, you're younged in compared to, but you're not young into your accountabilities and your responsibilities to the realities of trying to, you know, look out and step up and help up and man up, woman up.
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so i think that challenges these things that's coming at us through these signals. people doing real things and paying attention to people who do real things and listening and figuring out how do you actually put it into action from conference? i mean, when your show comes on, i go to youtube and figure how to download it. the business i'm in, if you have a conversation with barry gordie, huff, i keep these things in my hip on replay, pick up and keep with me, so i can go into action with the tools of learning what i did. you know? >> let's go back to this corporate conversation. my first question is, whether or not this is something that happened over time and it's gotten progressively worse, or whether it's always been this way. where the corporations had the final say. hadn't that always been the case? >> always been the case, but we've always had defenses and
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we've also had community to tell you what's the deal and what's not the deal, what to fall victim, what to like and what not to fall victim to. we don't have the safeguards up there against those situations. you know, my simple words to actually explain what a corporation is and the millennium is a core plantation, where people are slave employees and kind of, like, happy to be attached to one, as opposed to challenging it. i'm saying even in the music, mainly in the music business. people want to be secure. if you're going to have a sense of yourself, you want to have somebody who tells you what you are. before we used to rely on community and family to tell you who you are. this is who you is, you know? now people figured out their worth is based on who's, you know, what job or what position or what finances telling you who you are in this society. and my only -- one of my suggestions i tell people to break that symbolically, if you
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could, get a passport and find out, you know, that if -- imagine if 15 million negros across the united states get a passport, that challenges homeland security, because they'd say where are these negros going to go? it's being more and more difficult to actually get a passport than it was last century, so that's something black folks could do in this country. get a passport, not to go to the party in cancun or jump off in toronto, but to be able to say we are citizens of the world. we're earth-sins, although i might not have any plans to go anywhere, might not have money to go somewhere, but symbolically in my head, i'm attached with an action that i did. money's no excuse, because we got gear and we got rims and all these things that we purchase as part of the consumption of the united states of america, not america, which you got to
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include central and south, which they don't, so usa-ers, you know, can at least make an attempt to get a passport and watch the government try to say, who dat? you know? >> since you raised that a couple times. >> simple thing to do. >> simple thing. since you raised that a couple times, though, what to your mind would be the take away for fellow citizens, certainly people of color, african-americans, to get a passport and actually use it? i think travel is one of the great educators, but that's my own sense. since you're pressing this issue, what do you think the take away would be if more of us use the passports to get outside of america and look back on it? >> well, number one, outside america just means getting out there in the state of mind. people are already outside of america in many ways because of the internet. as a matter of fact, the internet just doesn't invite you to the rest of the world, it invites you into another world, even dangerous reasons, a world concocted and created within, without even getting into that,
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what we could do is have a state of mind to be able to know there's a world out there, people out there, there's ways out there we can adapt to figuring out how we get together. we're not a majority in this country, although you look at television and they'll show you, okay, the majority of -- well, black people on every commercial. asians in almost every commercial. yeah, but behind the scenes, you know, predominantly still white crew. and, okay, what's the racial makeup of the united states of america? and it's been distorted for a long time. i've said what black folks could do to get a step up into at least closer to being equal, even if we don't want to come together, is understand that we have an international state of mind and we know, you know, the struggles and different places and different people and our people, you know, much we might be talking africa, all right, how many africa you talking?
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africa's a gigantic continent full of millions of people that just not a footnote in your internet blogs or american news. what do you want to take from it and what do you want to give back to it, that's very important. being i'm in the area of culture, that exchange is more often than not, and also that exchange is usually so complex that even the core plantation big business kind of keeps a foot out because they don't know how to make that work. they never figured out how to make, you know, how we make, you know, 15 million gambians figure into this rapper's album sales, can't figure that out. everybody paid a dollar, and the businesspeople, we can't make that work, though, can we get more than a dollar? you know, so black economy when
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it comes down to a lot of different things, you know, sometimes it's cool for them not to figure us out so easy before we figure out ourselves out. for survival. >> before i turn to your project, i want to talk about "the black in man," which i'm fascinated by that title, which we'll get to. is there no accountability tonight that you want to apply toward the artist, is it -- you said earlier, i'm not mad at the artist, i'm mad at the corporation. >> i don't blame the artist. >> fair enough. >> i believe that, the question is, how young is young? dude, you're 27 years old. you ain't 4. you want somebody 16 coming to me, i'm young. you ain't 3. you know what i'm saying? no, they are 16, 17, 18 years old. you have men and women, young
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men and women. >> yeah. >> we teach a classroom, it helps sometimes calling a 15 year old a young man or a young woman. instead we got these kids up in here trying to teach them. so i'm, like, i challenge the artists all the time by saying, look, you want to be growing in this aspect, how are you not going to be growing in that? i understand that, you want to hoorah and all that, you know, accountability and responsibility got to go with that, too, when you're grown. so make that mix. they are going to have the managers that tell them that anymore, they don't have the record labels that tell them that anymore. they feel that when they want to bring these people in, they don't feel like they are family, and that's the problem. barry gordie felt those artists were family. even when it grew into different things, you know, i treat them like my brothers, my sister, my kids, there will be some arguments and there will be some, you know, lessons learned.
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gamble and huff the same thing. i just think that the separation of -- of we in the individuality of me is the gang signals that went the other way, when it should be from me to we. and that makes it, you know, if they are initially not better, it makes it understandable of what it is and what it ain't, and so when it comes down to all this, i tell them, do you really spit what you believe? do you really spit what you believe? you're 33 years old, you know, don't be giving me the 14-year-old story, man. that's the truth that's like radiation. i challenge artists very much with themselves, you know, when it comes down to their owners and their core plantations and these companies, very simple and very briefly, look, when you say you can't make them be more accountable and responsible, one thing you do make them do, and
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this goes for every company out there, they make them sign a contract. if they said they can't make the artist, make them sign a contract, don't you? and undisputably they can't say crap to that. every artist out there on a high level signs a contract. all this you can't make them accountable and responsible to the area of which they come from, that's a bunch of crap, man. >> in the minute and a half i have left, i could do this all night talking to you, as you know, "the black in man," love the title. what's behind that, why did you go with that? >> johnny cash was the man in black. i'm the black in man. i can't remove this. you know what i'm saying? you know, johnny cash is a truthful cat, you know, and, you know, big fan of his. just like curtis mayfair, james brown, ms. mavis staples, ms. yvonne staples, you know, the
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message in music is that there's fantastic music that's behind us that is our future. and all we got to do is pay attention. >> how would you describe the project musically? what's on the project? >> 37 minutes of mind, nerve, rhyme, and community. and, you know, kind of built it around ms. mavis, you know, and the song writers and the producers, we made sure that ms. mavis has the lion's share of the song. that was just a joy. >> what do you make of the fact your career's lasted long enough that this is the way you're releasing product now as opposed to vinyl? >> well,, we have our own radio station, spit digital is our own aggregation system in the delivery of whatever we want to do, and we help a thousand artists at a time, and, you know, you got to make up your own rules.
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we don't ask for anything. it's like the james brown thing, we don't ask for anything. we'd like to be able to say the big situations kind of ease up and level out for the independent, but that's not their thing, so we all got to fight them. got to fight the power. >> love it. is where you can find chuck d, the new project is called "the black in man." i'm always honored to have you on this program. any time we talk, i'm elevated and empowered. so thank you, my friend. >> thank you. >> good to have you here. that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at >> hi, i'm tavis smiley, schools all over the nation reopen for the fall, join me next time for a conversation about how to reform our public school system. that's next time. we'll see you then. that's next time. we'll see you then. ♪
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-- captions by vitac -- >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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it's is so false. >> it's absolutely true -- >> next on "kqed newsroom," california governor jerry brown and his opponent neel kashkari square off in their only scheduled debate. >> we lost 1.4 million jobs. since i've been elected, almost 1.3 million have come back to california. we've got momentum, and we're heading in the right direction. >> is your family back? are your kids in good schools today? do you feel good about your job? do you have the job you want, the job you deserve? >> i'm running for governor to fight for your family. >> all members vote who desire to vote -- >> i'm john myers at the state capitol in sacramento where the largest freshman class in the legislature in more than a generation just finished their first term and might mak


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